President Pierre Nkurunziza Opens EALA Plenary.

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   The President of the Republic of Burundi’s Head of State, H.E. Pierre Nkurunziza today opened the 5th Meeting of the 3rd Session of the 3rd East African Legislative Assembly in Bujumbura, Burundi.The President remarked that EALA had played a key role in bringing together the citizens of the region and hailed the Assembly for adhering to the principle of rotation in its meetings.“We are all aware that EALA plays a key role in bringing the people of East Africa on board of the integration process, through the public hearings on Bills and the Nanyuki series that are conducted throughout the Region. It is crystal clear that the achievements by the EALA in this area would not have been possible without its Members’ outstanding leadership”, President Nkurunziza said.The President further called on the Partner States to speedily implement the decisions of the Community.  “Another top priority is the speedy implementation of decisions at the EAC Partner States’ level and the implementation of the Protocols and commitments agreed upon by Partner States, if the benefits of regional integration were to be achieved”, President Nkurunziza said.“It is imperative, therefore, that the EALA and the Council of Ministers collaborate more on mechanisms to initiate laws to enforce the rapid implementation of the Single Customs Territory and the Common Market Protocol so that East African citizens can reap benefits accruing from them” the President added.On the forthcoming elections in Burundi, the Head of State was categorical that the country would hold peaceful, free and fair elections.  He thanked the EAC for its contribution towards ensuring the polls are done in a peaceful manner.“In this perspective, I wish to commend the joint initiative of the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) aimed at supporting the consolidation of Democracy, Reconciliation and Tolerance among Burundians and Political Actors, in view to achieving transparent and credible 2015 Elections”, he said.In this regard, President Nkurunziza termed the launch of the Round Tables Programme on elections in Burundi on 15th January 2015 as fundamental. He said the occasion presented Burundians and eminent persons of the region with an opportunity to tackle issues related to elections and electoral processes in view to consolidating regional stability through peaceful elections in Burundi.The President announced that parliamentary elections would be held on 26th May 2015, and Presidential elections exactly a month later.The Head of State further urged the Assembly to take collaboration with the National Assemblies to a higher notch“I have also been informed of progress made in the area of co-operation between the East African Legislative Assembly and National Parliaments of East African Community Partner States.I am of the strong view that such co-operation will continue to make it easy for the East African Community to work together and in doing so, be able to achieve integrated and harmonious development”, President Nkurunziza said.He thus urged EALA to reinforce its oversight mandate so as to ensure the citizens of the region genuinely enjoy the fruits of integration and in so doing, contribute to the eradication of poverty and illiteracy in the region.In his welcome remarks, the Speaker of the EALA, Rt. Hon Daniel F. Kidega noted that the Assembly’s meeting was taking place at an irreversible time in the regional integration process.  He said EALA would strengthen its quest to enhance legislative, oversight and representative function with all due diligence.The Speaker remarked that sensitization was key and cited the need to reach out to all stakeholders.  He said the Assembly was gearing to meet with the youth populace, whom he termed, critical in strengthening the integration process.“Later on this week, we shall be meeting with representatives of the youth in Burundi and the EAC Youth Ambassadors to listen to, discuss and strategise with them on key issues around integration”, the Speaker stated.“Outreach to the youth is also on our menu as it is envisaged by our Strategic Plan (2013-2018)”, Rt. Hon Kidega added.  The Speaker also said that the Assembly would meet with the representatives of the trade union movement and the employers to tighten the bolts in their collaboration. “Our message to the groups is clear, that we need to close ranks, and to keep the conversations alive to strengthen the process of regional integration.We shall keep avenues open for deeper consultations and receipt of petitions with the diverse stakeholders including the business community, academia, civil society and opinion leaders.  In this way, we believe we can create a spiral effect in the dissemination of information of EAC to the citizenry”, the Speaker said.Rt Hon Kidega lauded President Nkurunziza for leading the country to progressive development.  He said the landmark achievements had been realized since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.The Speaker wished the Republic of Burundi well in the forthcoming elections and urged the country to adhere to the principles of democratization and constitutionalism.He mentioned that EALA would send a strong team as part of the EAC’s Elections Observer Mission when the country goes to the polls in May and June this year.“This is a period to secure the future of the country through the ballot box. Elections anywhere tend to stir uncertainty, and investors traditionally withhold decision making until the aftermath, to see if and when the effect of any radical shift in policy becomes apparent.  On behalf of EALA, let me wish you successful, peaceful and credible elections”, Rt. Hon Kidega said.According to the Speaker, EALA hopes to pass three key bills at the two week session.  The Bills are the Elimination of the NTBs Bill, 2015, the EAC Customs Amendment Bill 2014 and the EAC Cross-Border Legal Practice Bill, 2014.Debates of Reports of various Committees of EALA shall be held including that of Communication Trade and Investment on the EAC Single Customs Territory and on the Civil Authority Safety and Security Oversight Agency (CASSOA), the Report of the Accounts Committee on the EAC Audited Accounts for the Financial year ended 30th June 2013 and the Report of the Committee on Legal Rules and Privileges on Rules of Committees and the Code of Conduct for Members is also due for debate.The Assembly further hopes to pass Resolutions and pose questions to the Council of Ministers. .The Speaker of the Burundi National Assembly, Rt. Hon Pie Ntavyohanyuma, said the Parliament would ensure the national laws conform to the Acts of the Community and in the popularization of the passed laws.  He pledged the support of the Burundi National Assembly in the framework of Parliamentary diplomacy.He called for concerted efforts to address the challenges facing the region, some of which he cited as insecurity, terrorism, and elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers.The vote of thanks was moved by Hon Abubakar Zein.  He termed the speech of the President as progressive adding that the policy directives contained therein were key to strengthening the integration process.  He noted that President Nkurunziza had led the country to be stable and was instrumental in negotiating peace and in its eventual entry into the EAC.